Android P Part 3: The OnePlus Pie Experience

So, after the fiasco that was my try-run of Android P beta 1 on the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2s I am still pretty saddened about the not updating it at all. OnePlus on the other hand kept updating and adding Oxygen OS features. So, as I am using the OnePlus 6 i figured I could have another go at it, and maybe I will like it better this time. 

Installation

When comparing installing the Android P beta on the OnePlus 6 as opposed to the Mix 2s it is like Xiaomi wanted this to be annoying. If you did not read it, here is the post describing how to get the beta on your Xiaomi Mi Mix 2s. 

On the OnePlus 6 all you have to do is download the .zip folder onto your device, put it in the main storage folder (root folder), go to settings, system updates and press the settings button up to the right. Click install from local file and select the .zip you downloaded. There you go.

Now I skipped one step. OnePlus recommends that you then turn off the phone and boots into recovery (holding down the power button + volume down) and factory reset your OnePlus 6. This is of course so you do not encounter issues carried over from a huge software update.

I forgot about this and could not get the launcher to stop crashing. So do yourself a favor and wipe it right away. Of course the launcher kept crashing anyway and I started to fear the worst, that it simply would not work. Google kept updating and re-installing my apps though and eventually it stopped crashing. Guess it updated by itself.

Then you can go along with the standard Android setup process after agreeing to use the beta and acknowledging that it might be unstable. 

First Impression

I still believe that Android 9.0 Pie is a great face-lift for the operating system. It is a change, and whilst I liked the design of previous builds this looks more modern. 

OnePlus has done a good job in implementing their own stuff into the P beta and you will find features like Face Unlock, OnePlus' navigation gestures, dark mode, the OnePlus Launcher with Shelf installed, gaming mode and parallel apps along with the OnePlus 6 camera app. 

I read that the beta suffers from Bluetooth issues but so far my Fitbit Ionic seems to pair and connect just fine . 

In the latest beta OnePlus also adapted the new Recent Apps menu with its horisontal layout. I actually prefer this over the stacked cards, as you get to see more of the open app without another one laying on top of it. I am also quite used to this layout since using MIUI on the Mix 2s. 

OnePlus' navigation gestures work just as before on Android Oreo, but the animations are worse than ever. Now, OnePlus have plenty of time to fix this before the official release so I am not worried, but it makes me wish they just adopted the Android P gestures. I do hope that they are as smooth as they look on Googles .gif's. 

There is a way to get the stock gesture control on the beta following this guide from XDA, this definitely helps to smooth out the animations until OnePlus gets it right. 

Real Life Beta Review

I have been using the Android Pie Beta on my OnePlus 6 for a few days now and in my short-term review I can say that: 

  1. I appreciate the design-upgrade from Oreo. I feel like a lot of the decisions give this a more refined and modern look.
  2. OnePlus' Dark mode is still good, but I think they need to work on how it looks in the notification shade, especially at the top (beside the notch), in the Shelf, and in the volume control slider.
  3. The Launcher does crash from time to time, and Shelf is seems to have a hard time with my Deezer widget which doesn't do anything and if I click it I get thrown into my last opened app.
  4. OnePlus needs to do something about the search bar in the settings menu, I do not usually mind this but it takes up more space than it needs.
  5. In battery stats you cannot see your screen on time, though the area is there there is no number to be seen.
 With Android P, Google have worked on smoothing out the edges.

With Android P, Google have worked on smoothing out the edges.

Stability

As I mentioned above the Launcher do crash from time to time. But it also loads up right away so it is not really something that ruins the experience too much. Battery Life seems to be pretty equal to what I had on the latest stable version of Oreo which is not great, but improving. The camera also works as expected, which is great after trying the beta on the Mix 2s. 

Animations are smooth and without lag. The Android P Beta 3 is actually really stable and in my usage qualifies as a daily driver Rom, as it used to be called. I have not had any app-compatibility issues so far, even Fitbit works as expected, and Bluetooth connection is as stable as when on Oreo. That means there are occasional stutters when streaming music to headphones, but hopefully OnePlus can fix this.

I followed the guide on XDA to get the stock Android P gestures, which works very well. You have to use the OnePlus launcher, and a long-swipe up does not get you to the app-drawer, but the gestures work as expected. I had one incident when the swipe to jump between apps stopped working, but a quick reboot fixed this and it have not been back since. 
The gestures work really well, but I still have a hard time seeing how they are so much better than the original software buttons. The area is as large as the buttons, making this move feel half-baked and not as powerful as the original OnePlus or iOS gestures. 

What saves this gesture input from total damnation is the swipe to skip between apps. a quick swipe of the home button takes you to the previously used app. Swipe and hold on the other hand moves you through your list of recent apps, and when you stop it selects that app. The whole process is very fluid and smooth, and this is what really makes the gestures in Android P useful. You also get to keep the Google Assistant shortcut that I usually miss on other gesture versions. 

There is also the still included back button, appearing "only when it is needed". This is a fancy way of saying that the back buttons is missing on the home screen, but as soon as you open an app you have a back button.

I do hope that Google manages to create this sort of navigation whilst still minimizing the buttons screen-area though. 

Design and OnePlus additions

Themes

The Default Theme

In Android P OnePlus added a third theme called Default which follows the standard Android Theme. This is a nice looking mixture between light and dark, but it is not Amoled black. Unfortunately you cannot change the accent colors on this theme.

The Light Theme

As usual there is a Light Theme, giving pretty much everything a clean white color. With this theme you can change the accent colors, either by presets or with the full color-wheel.

The Dark Theme

The popular OnePlus Dark Theme. This is the Amoled friendly black design, with an accent color of your choice like in the Light Theme. 

I have mostly been using the Dark Theme, but mostly for the ability to change Accent colors and the presumed battery-preferences for the Amoled display. For my personal use I prefer this theme-support over a full-fledged theme store like Samsung and Xiaomi provides. I applaud OnePlus for creating stronger customization by adding the color wheel to accent colors.

Features

In this release of the P beta you pretty much get what you expect from Oxygen OS.

  • Gaming Mode is present
  • Parallel Apps
  • App Locker
  • Face Unlock, as previously mentioned
  • Support for Dual Sim
  • Screen Calibration
  • Night, and Reading Mode
  • Ambient Display
  • Screen-off gestures
  • Scheduled Power on/off

As you can see, OnePlus have ported a lot of features already, and I have not noticed anything missing that I use. Future betas should therefor focus on stability and optimization, and hopefully better animations for the gestures. 

Conclusion 

The Developer Preview 4 on the OnePlus 6 is impressively stable, and for me functions well as a Daily Driver. OnePlus put a lot of work into making it an Oxygen OS beta right off the bat, and it shows. Going on this beta version, I should think the stable version of Android Pie for the 6 should not be too far away. Definitely not as far off as the end of this fall.

9.0 Pie gives Android a fresh paint-job without feeling unfamiliar. In my opinion it is a modern improvement over the previous design. The new gestures are in many ways less exciting than what OnePlus, Xioami and Apple are doing, especially since it keeps the full size of the nav-buttons. But in return you get the excellent app-switching and less accidental swipes.

This version lacks a few of the features from the full release, such as App Actions in the app drawer based on previous usage and time, Ambient Battery and Ambient Display and the digital well-being dashboard. The latter can be installed on rooted devices however. 

I look forward to seeing what OnePlus will do next. According to post by David Y (Community Manager from OnePlus) a new Open Beta for Oxygen Os will be released in the coming days, if all goes according to plan.

So I would say, wait for the Open Beta release and look forward to it.

Thanks for reading!